Students from the TNKR Student Club at the Asia Pacific International School recently visited the TNKR office. They will be holding activities raising awareness, fundraising, and also volunteering in a special TNKR project.

To get things done, there often needs to be at least one person to make something happen. Even when there is a good idea, if there isn’t at least one person committed to making things happen, then the idea may die a quiet death. That’s one reason when I’m in meetings that I don’t allow people to say that an unnamed “someone” needs to get something done. I’ve learned that “somebody” becomes “nobody” when it is time to get work done.

That somebody at APIS is Clara Park, the founding president of the TNKR Club at APIS. I have been speaking at APIS and other international schools since 2013, but she is the first student to take up my challenge to get more deeply involved with TNKR.

On Tuesday I received a phone call from a North Korean refugee I don’t know. She doesn’t speak any English and was excited, exasperated, frustrated and excited all at the same time explaining to me in Korean that she wants to study English in TNKR.

Yes, that was on my personal cell phone.

Eunkoo received two calls directly to her personal cell phone from refugees eager to join TNKR. Other refugees have been messaging us asking if they can join–and then when we meet them, they want to know, “When can I start?

It seems that our phone numbers have been posted anywhere, the proverbial bathroom wall with the message, “For a good time learning English, call TNKR…”

We continue meeting with each refugee joining TNKR, each initial interview takes about an hour. In addition, we also meet with other refugees who have already joined us, sometimes for feedback, sometimes for counseling sessions, other times to discuss their involvement within TNKR.

Over the last few weeks we have had many orientation sessions with volunteer tutors to start the year, so many of them say our program is so organized. I wish we would have started like this, just about everything we do is based on trial-and-lots of errors.

It amazes some people that we don’t recruit refugees. As I quoted Leonard Read in one of my speeches, the test of your effectiveness is if people seek your counsel. If you can get to the point that people are seeking you out with you recruiting them, then it means you are doing quite well.

Of course, that is a bit different when it comes to volunteers, it is necessary to recruit people when WORK is involved! 🙂 In that spirit, I have been thinking about some changes we can make to our English tutoring project:

  • Evaluator: The goal would be to develop a better assessment system. We give the students an introductory test, but I think it is time for us to upgrade it. Some of our tutors are so kind that they forget to push the refugees sometimes. I would like to have some evaluators who aren’t trying to be buddies with refugees, but would be like third-party evaluators who want to give the refugees a realistic assessment of their English levels.
  • Senior tutors: These tutors wouldn’t be matched with particular refugees, but would come into our office to help refugees with particular needs.
  • Emergency tutors: Some refugees sometimes need emergency help before an exam, interview for college or a job, a presentation in school, or some other short-term task requiring English. Ideally, these would be tutors who have already been in TNKR for at least six months and aren’t looking to be buddies with refugees.
  • Material development: We have tried with a curriculum but refugees rejected it. I do believe it would be useful to develop some special English lessons and materials for some specific needs that arise out of our classes.
  • Office: Yes, it isn’t a teaching need, but we do need an office from July 2019.

What could we do without tutors giving their time to tutor North Korean refugees? One of our volunteer tutors, Caylin, is now tutoring as much as three hours a day in our office.

Support TNKR

TNKR is a small little non-profit NGO located in Seoul.

  • We rely on executive staff getting paid minimum wage to lead the organization.
  • We don’t have a sexy mission pretending to save the world.
  • Volunteers who can leave at any moment if they find a new hobby, have a change in their lives, or get upset by something I write, say or do (or fail to write, say or do).
  • We aren’t sure where our office will be later this year
  • Month-to-month we raise enough money to keep operations going while also expanding even before we know where the money will come from.
  • We don’t have anyone paid on staff designated to handle media, fundraising, strategy, accounting or many other basic things growing organizations need.
  • Our entire budget is less than the salaries of some of the people who support our activities.

Despite all of that, we have fans! Not K-pop crazy level fans, but we do have people who follow us and keep track of us. I’m always surprised when people contact me asking if they can come by, to meet us, ask how they can help. They include visitors from Germany, universities, businesses, schools, local Korean government.

Some of them are surprised to see we have such a humble office, the media has made us look much bigger than we are in reality.

When it is photo time, some of them are prepared. Others are shocked that I am asking, despite my infamous reputation for taking photos with everyone I meet. Some are thrilled and ask if they can take photos with their cameras too. Some ask if they can cover their faces the way we allow the refugees to do.

It is always great welcoming fans. When Eunkoo and I started these activities in early 2013, we had no idea that we would build something that could even have fans. We wanted to make sure we did something practical.

Of course, before our fans and visitors leave, I advise all them to donate. Support TNKR: https://www.paypal.me/loveTNKR

Most people love marking anniversaries. 1st, 5th, 10th, 20th, 25th and 50th anniversaries are special. There are even celebrations of 1 month or 100 days.

However, when you are engaged in a social cause with someone missing or abducted, then anniversary dates aren’t real celebrations.

In the case of Hwang In-Cheol, this year marks the 50th anniversary of his father being abducted to North Korea. For the last 15 years or so, he has been lobbying and trying to raise awareness about his father’s abduction. He has had to overcome many things during that time–apathy from the general society, the passage of time, the struggle of raising his own family, carrying on this case while other issues and cases get more attention, concerns that his father may have already passed away, South Korean government officials preferring to deal with more pressing cases, and even that this case is “uncomfortable” whenever relations slightly warm up with North Korea.

This year marks the 50th anniversary, which means this is sure to be the last time the media pays attention to this case. Media likes those big anniversary dates, but when they pass, then the media moves on to the next case.

If you would like to join this campaign this year during this 50th anniversary, then contact project manager Youngmin Kwon (010 6800 2054 friendsofhwang@gmail.com).

TNKR is trying to build a team of people with various skills, from social media, graphic design, writing, strategy. Even if you don’t have any of those skills, then at the least you can be a bump on a log by attending his events. Having more people with him can show him and others that he is not alone. Please consider donating to this effort, Mr. Hwang hopes to travel to Geneva this year to testify about this campaign.

Here’s an in-depth article about this case.

Team Hwang is now planning an event at the Hidden Cellar on January 26, so please save that date, plan to join that evening.

Early last year I announced that TNKR was starting the Volunteer Leadership Academy.

The goal was to organize volunteers who come to TNKR into project teams who would work together. I mentioned this a few times, and also said, hint hint, that we needed someone who could lead up the project

A few months ago, TNKR volunteer tutor Karleta Peterson stepped forward! We met several times to discuss how we could work together and how the project could develop.

Then on January 6, we held the first formal session of the Volunteer Leadership Academy. Karleta showed off her organizational and leadership skills.


Want to join TNKR’s Volunteer Leadership Academy?

Step 1: Join an Orientation session

The next orientation session will be held on January 27, 2019 at the TNKR office, in advance of the first general meeting on February 9, 2019.

Step 2: Email Your Resume

  • You can submit a standard or your favorite resume to TNKR Co-Founder Casey Lartigue and VLA Coordinator Karleta Peterson.
  • Be sure to include up-to-date contact information (such as, an email address that you actually check).

Step 3: Apply

  • The online application is here.

Step 4: Set up a fundraiser

  • Have fun! Be creative! Put the “fun” in fundraiser! We have now had more than 200 fundraisers set up by volunteers. Members of our Volunteer Leadership Academy have the challenge of helping TNKR become a financially sustainable organization.

As Karleta wrote in the application:

Thank you for your interest in Teach North Korea Refugees’ Volunteer Leadership Academy (VLA)! Since 2013, Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR) has provided free, one on one tutoring to over 400 North Korean refugees residing in South Korea. However, in order to help our organization continue to grow and provide these services, we need the help of dedicated, non-instructional volunteers in a variety of areas including social media, fundraising, writing, editing, film, photography, design, events, media, and PR.

The Volunteer Leadership Academy follows a team model. Volunteers are expected to join a team and attend monthly meetings to discuss and execute projects and special events within the organization. This is an opportunity to build upon current skills or try a new field of interest while working on real projects with real impacts. We expect a 4 month minimum commitment from all volunteers.

To join the Volunteer Leadership Academy, you must (1) submit this online application, (2) set up a fundraiser at give.lovetnkr.com, and (3) attend our VLA open house on Sunday, January 27th at 2 PM at the TNKR Office. The application deadline is Sunday, January 20th at 11:59 pm.

If you have any questions about the program or application process, please reach out to Karleta Peterson, VLA Coordinator, at TNKR.VLA@gmail.com and TNKR co-founder Casey Lartigue at CJL@alumni.harvard.edu. Additionally, to learn more about TNKR and our work, visit teachnorthkoreanrefugees.org.

We look forward to reviewing your application!

By Casey Lartigue Jr.

In April 2015, Eunhee Park joined Teach North Korean Refugees as a novice at English. At that time, she was embarrassed to use her name and hated to admit that she was from North Korea. She even refused to be in the group photo that we take after Matching sessions where refugees choose tutors (refugees have the option to hide their faces, but even that wasn’t enough for her at that time).

In December 2018, Eunhee Park gave a TEDx Talk at TEDxDongdaemunWomen before a packed audience.

Korea Times blog post here: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/opinion/2019/01/626_261826.html

Eunhee Park’s TEDx Talk here:

Casey Lartigue, co-founder of TNKR (standing on the left), and Lee Eunkoo, (standing on the right), pose along with TNKR volunteers. Photo courtesy of = TNKR FACEBOOK

Every Friday, News Scene reports on news about North Korea. There is a Korean NGO that helps refugees share their stories and voice their opinions in society. TNKR is the only English-language educational organization helping North Korean refugees that was founded by an American. Reporter Jang, Yang-hee reported.

Michael Downey, an American man who has lived in Korea for 18 years, first learned about TNKR in 2017.

[Interview: Michael Downey] “On the world scene today, everybody is talking about, writing about, and pontificating about North Korea. Although .. “
“Many people are interested in North Korea, talking and writing about it, but few people are doing anything in a practical way. However, TNKR was different and I wanted to join.”

Downey said he was inspired by the group’s approach of having refugees speak their voices.

Downey, who is a published author, is passionate about wanting to open a TNKR branch where he lives.

Casey Lartigue, co-founder of TNKR, said that Mr. Downey was a bit skeptical initially, but has become a big fan and active participant who inspires others.

Mr. Downey has always been interested in education.

TNKR 영어튜터이자 기금모금 기획자인 마이클 다우니 씨가 탈북자 작가 장진성 씨와 포즈를 취하고 있다.

[Interview: Michael Downey] “The North Korean students that I’ve been tutored and coached have always been bright, enthusiastic learners, and always grateful for my ..”

He not only teaches English for free to students in TNKR, but he also skips a meal every day, then donates the money to TNKR every Friday morning.

Aaron Peterson, a native of Oregon, recently joined TNKR as a tutor. He has been involved with other North Korea related organizations and works as an elementary school teacher in Seoul.

Mr. Petersen believed that his expertise would help refugees because he knew English was a must in Korean society.

[Recording: Aaron Peterson] “When I learned that North Korean refugees needed to learn English in order to function in South Korean society and to ..”

Mr. Peterson thinks it is very rewarding to see people who are very passionate about studying English and to teach grateful students who are highly motivated. The language is different and sometimes misunderstood, but the process also encourages students’ patience in studying English.
Donna Kimelman, an American woman from Brooklyn, New York, has taught English at government agencies throughout Korea and Germany. She has been teaching about modern slavery for 20 years.

Donna is a volunteer tutor with TNKR for North Korean refugees. She says it was surprising listening to their stories at TNKR events.
[Recorded by Donna Kimmel] “When I found TNKR I was excited about a way to be involved … “

Janice Kim started as a volunteer tutor for the group and is now the Academic Coordinator. She was interested in helping refugees because of her experiences in a Korean immigrant family.

[Janice Kim] “My mother’s first experience settling in the USA with very little English ability. I vividly remember the struggles she faced with .. ”

She said she was angry at her mother’s inability to speak English and that this experience made her feel guilty until she became an adult.

Janice has taken on the role of managing volunteer tutors within TNKR.

Teach North Korean Refugees, or TNKR, was founded in 2013 by Casey Lartigue and Eunkoo Lee. More than 800 volunteers have taught English to refugees. About 60-70% of the volunteers are Americans. Last month, 27 Americans applied to join TNKR. Twenty-seven Americans applied to join TNKR last month.

Many of the volunteers work in Korea as English teachers and many others are affiliated with non-profit organizations or have jobs outside of English teaching.

According to Casey Lartigue, many of the teachers who read about North Korea are looking for a practical way to get involved. They get to learn about North Korean refugees through this experience. There are about 400 North Korean refugees who have studied one-to-one with English tutors in TNKR. For example, Park Yeon-mi, a North Korean human rights activist in the United States, studied with tutors one-to-one for eight months during 2014.

In the United States, Ms. Park has been giving speeches in English the last three years to businesses and organizations about the North Korean human rights situation.

One of the reasons why this organization has been able to achieve results is that students and volunteers can focus on English study.

Janice Kim, Academic Coordinator, said that it is not easy to keep relationships as good as one-on-one between students and volunteers, and that managing these relationships is one of her roles.

 [Interview: Kim Jen] “I’ve seen this happen a number of times where I have to ask for leave the program for overstepping those boundaries ..”

The organization has strict rules against dating or socializing.


TNKR’s study sessions are determined by the needs of the refugees. Test preparation, speaking, traveling, employment, etc., are topics tutors need to be prepared to help refugees with. The student-centered approach provides students with a choice and fills their academic needs directly.


Among human rights and refugee support organizations in Korea, TNKR is the only organization established by an American. Casey Lartigue, a graduate of Harvard University, says TNKR is growing economically and culturally as an English-language institution for refugees.

Lartigue is looking forward to 2019.

The ‘Volunteer Leadership Academy, launched last year, will provide opportunities for volunteers to get more deeply involved with building the organization; the organization will eventually help refugees with education and employment opportunities; and to upgrade the organization’s speech contests into an international event.

VOA News

(This is a quick translation and edit, to be used for general understanding)

Support TNKR’s 2019 Matching Donation Challenge

Here’s the original link at VOA, with audio.

[뉴스풍경] 탈북민들 목소리 찾아주는 미국인들

케이시 라티그 TNKR(왼쪽에 서 있는 남성) 공동대표, 한국 여성 이은구 대표, 그리고 TNKR 자원봉사자들이 카메라를 향해 포즈를 취하고 있다. 사진제공=TNKR FACEBOOK

케이시 라티그 TNKR(왼쪽에 서 있는 남성) 공동대표, 한국 여성 이은구 대표, 그리고 TNKR 자원봉사자들이 카메라를 향해 포즈를 취하고 있다. 사진제공=TNKR FACEBOOK

매주 금요일 북한 관련 화제성 소식을 전해 드리는 `뉴스 풍경’입니다. 탈북민들이 자신의 이야기를 나누고 사회에서 목소리를 낼 수 있도록 돕는 한국의 민간단체가 있습니다. 탈북민정착을 돕는 단체들 가운데 유일하게 미국인이 설립한 영어교육단체 TNKR입니다. 장양희 기자가 취재했습니다.

올해로 18년째 한국에 거주하고 있는 미국인 남성 마이클 다우니 씨.

다우니 씨가 TNKR을 만난 지난 2017년, 당시 다우니 씨의 생각은 이랬습니다.

[녹취:마이클 다우니] “On the world scene today, everybody is talking about, writing about, and pontificating about North Korea. Although ..”

북한에 대해 말하고 글을 쓰는 등 관심은 많지만 무엇이든 행동하는 사람은 적다는 것이었습니다.

그러나 이 단체는 달랐고 자신도 동참하고 싶었습니다.

다우니 씨는 이 단체가 탈북민들이 당당하게 목소리를 내도록 돕자는 취지로 설립됐다는 점이 영감을 줬다고 말했습니다.

현재 작가로 활동하고 있는 다우니 씨는 자신이 거주하는 지역에 이 단체 지부를 열고 싶어할 만큼 열정적입니다.

케이시 라티그 TNKR 공동대표는 활동 초기에는 회의적인 모습을 보이기도 했던 다우니 씨가 지금은 단체에서 사람들에게 큰 영향력을 끼치고 있다고 말했습니다.

다우니 씨는 10대에서 30대에 이르는 탈북민들의 학업에 대한 열정에서 늘 영감을 얻고 있습니다.

TNKR 영어튜터이자 기금모금 기획자인 마이클 다우니 씨가 탈북자 작가 장진성 씨와 포즈를 취하고 있다.
TNKR 영어튜터이자 기금모금 기획자인 마이클 다우니 씨가 탈북자 작가 장진성 씨와 포즈를 취하고 있다.

[녹취:마이클 다우니]”The North Korean students that I’ve tutored and coached have all been bright, enthusiastic learners, and always grateful for my..”

다우니 씨는 자신이 무료로 영어를 가르칠 뿐 아니라 하루 한끼 식사를 거르고 매주 모은 돈을 이 단체에 기부하고 있습니다.

오레건 주 출신인 애론 피터슨 씨가 탈북민들의 영어교사가 된 건 최근의 일입니다.

그동안 다른 기관이나 단체에서 북한 관련 활동을 했던 그는 서울에서 초등학교 교사로 일하고 있습니다.

피터슨 씨는 한국사회에서 영어는 필수라는 것을 알기 때문에 탈북민들에게 자신의 전문성이 도움이 될 거라고 판단했습니다.

[녹취:애론 피터슨 ]” When I learned that North Korean refugees needed to learn English in order to function in South Korean society and to..”

피터슨 씨는 영어 공부에 매우 열심인 탈북민들을 보는 것, 그리고 그들의 발전을 지켜보는 것이 무척 즐겁고, 늘 고맙게 여기는 사람들을 가르치는 보람이 크다고 생각합니다.

서로의 언어가 달라 때로는 오해도 있지만 그런 과정도 학생들의 영어 공부에 대한 인내심을 키워준다고 말합니다.

뉴욕 브루클린 출신인 미국인 여성 도나 키멜만 씨는 한국과 독일을 두루 거치며 정부기관에서 영어를 가르쳐왔습니다.

21세기 현대판 노예에 대해 오랫동안 가르쳐왔고 난민 문제도 다루는 활동이 도나 씨가 이 단체에 참여하게 된 동기가 됐습니다.

도나 씨는 탈북민들에게 영어를 가르치며 이들이 겪은 이야기를 듣고 있다며, 매우 놀라운 일이라고 말했습니다.

[녹취:도나 키멜만] “When I found TNKR I was excited about a way to be more involved…”

이 단체의 자원봉사자로 시작했다가 지금은 학생들과 영어교사들 간의 학업관리를 담당하는 제니스 김 씨.

제니스 씨는 미국 캘리포니아에서 나고 자란 한인 2세로 이민자 가정에서 겪은 경험 때문에 난민 영어교육에 발을 들여놓게 됐습니다.

[녹취:제니스 김] “My mother’s first experience settling in the USA with very little English ability. I vividly remember the struggles she faced with..”

어머니가 영어를 하지 못하는 모습에 화가났고, 이 경험은 어른이 될 때까지 어머니에 대한 죄스러움을 갖게 했다는 설명인데요, 제니스 씨는 이 단체를 안 직후 곧바로 자신이 할 일임을 알았다고 말했습니다.

제니스 씨는 이 단체에서 탈북민 영어교육 전문가로 일하면서 원어민 자원봉사자들을 돕고 있습니다.

‘탈북난민들을 가르치자’는 의미인 TNKR은 2013년에 설립된 이 단체에서 자원봉사자로 활동한 영어교사는 총 800여명. 이 중 60-70%는 미국인입니다.

지난해 12월 자원한 40여명의 봉사자들 가운데 27명이 미국인이었습니다.

한국에서 영어교사로 일하며 학생들을 가르치는 봉사자가 많은데요, 이들은 다른 봉사자들에게 긍정적인 영향력을 끼치고 있습니다.

그 밖에 민간단체에 소속돼 있거나 전문직에 종사하는 사람들도 많습니다.

케이시 라티그 대표에 따르면 영어교사로 봉사하는 이들은 다양한 과정을 겪지만 북한 관련 기사를 읽고 영상을 봐도 정서적인 한계에 부딫히고, 단체를 알게 되면서 북한주민에 대해 이해의 폭이 커집니다.

TNKR의 1대1영어교육을 체험한 탈북민은 400여명인데요, 대표적으로 미국에서 북한인권 운동가로 활동하는 박연미 씨는 8개월 간 1대1교육을 받았습니다.

박 씨는 미국에서 지난 3년 간 기업과 단체를 상대로 원어민 수준의 영어로 북한인권 상황을 알리고 있습니다.

이 단체가 성과를 낼 수 있었던 중요한 이유 중 하나는 학생과 자원봉사자들이 영어공부에만 집중할 수 있는 환경입니다.

제니스 김 코디네이터는 학생들과 봉사자들 간의 1대1 수업이 이뤄지는 만큼 관계가 선을 넘지 않도록 유지하는 것이 쉬운 일이 아니라며, 이것을 관리하는 것이 자신의 역할 중 하나라고 설명했습니다.

[녹취:제니스 김] “I’ve seen this happen a number of times where I had to ask tutors to leave the program for overstepping those boundaries..”

교사와 학생의 선을 넘어 친구나 연애 상대를 찾는 사람들은 단체 프로그램 참여가 불가능하다는 설명입니다.

이 단체는 탈북민들의 요구에 따라 수업 내용을 결정합니다. 시험준비, 연설, 여행, 취업 등 본인이 요구하고 교사도 선택합니다.

학생 중심 접근방식으로 학생들에게 선택의 기회를 제공하고 이들의 학업욕구를 채워주는 것은 교육의 과정과 결과에 직결됩니다.

한국내 대북인권단체, 탈북민 지원단체 중 미국인이 설립한 유일한 단체인 TNKR.

미국 명문 하버드대학교를 졸업한 케이시 라티그 대표는 TNKR이 탈북민 영어교육 기관으로서 경제적, 문화적으로 성장하고 있다고 말합니다.

라티그 대표는 2019년 한 해 달성하기로 한 목표에 고무돼 있습니다.

지난해 출범한 ‘자원봉사자 리더십 학술 프로그램’을 통해 교사들에게 강한 동기를 심어주고 역량을 강화하는 것, 영어교육의 질적 향상으로 탈북민들의 교육과 취업을 돕는 것, 그리고 올해 8월 국제적인 행사로 열리게 될 영어말하기 대회를 계획하고 있습니다.

VOA 뉴스 장양희 입니다.

So you wanna volunteer with TNKR!

Great choice, but there are some things you need to know to reach your goal. TNKR has developed its own culture and process, and we are always seeking volunteers who want to help us to continue to develop so we can offer great education opportunities for North Korean refugees.

Here’s our process for applying!

  1. Application
  2. Customized resume
  3. State-level ID.
  4. Signed Waiver
  5. Follow-up!

Here it is, step-by-step, and will be updated as necessary.

  1. Application

Here are the most important links, you can apply as a volunteer tutor, coach, or join TNKR’s Volunteer Leadership Academy.

Why why why? Some people naturally want to know why they need to submit an application. Isn’t it enough for them to send an email or just call us to let us know they will drop by, grab some refugees, and head off on their merry way?

Slow down!

  • NGO: TNKR is an official non-profit organization registered with the Seoul City Government. TNKR is not a social club, a hangout joint, a language exchange, or a meetup group. So we need to build a real organization with a transparent process, proper data collection, accountability and protection of participants.
  • Multiple projects: We have many activities going on, it can be confusing to newcomers. Tutor? Coach? Volunteer Leadership Academy? Track 1? Track 2? Forums? Book Club discussions? I occasionally receive emails from people who write, “Hey Casey! I want to join your next meeting!” Then I think, for example, about all of the orientation sessions and meetings we are holding this month.

2. Customized Resume

Be careful! This may be the trickiest step during the application process! Some people ignore our guidelines and send their standard resume, which we reject until they get it right.

The most important thing to know about this step is that the resumes are for the refugees. When we say that TNKR is refugee-centered, that starts with the resume being formatted for them. They don’t need a detailed accounting of your academic and professional career or a resume you would send to a company in the US or South Korea.

What they need to know is: When and where are you available to tutor or coach? What are your particular teaching or coaching skills?

So watch this step! Or you might fall out of TNKR before you ever get started. First, our resume guidelines.

Why do we have these guidelines, and why can’t volunteers send in whatever format they want?

  • One-page maximum resume: Some volunteers have sent resumes as long as 12 pages. If every volunteer did that, and we had 15 volunteers apply, then refugees would need to wade through 180 pages.
  • Word document: We need the resumes all formatted with Word without any fancy graphics. Really, we have had some people with some high-tech resumes! Why is that a problem? We receive the resumes, then copy and paste the information from all of the applicants. You can see why PDF or other document formats could cause a problem, with those fancy-dancy graphics falling off the page.
  • One-paragraph self-introduction: Why in the world would we require such a thing? The refugees want to know who you are! Who are these nice people willing to give their time to help them learn English? Some of the statements, some are really sappy. Anyway, be sure to include this, because it is the first time that refugees get to “know” you, before later meeting in person.
  • Teaching (or coaching) preferences: We restrict this to two items. Many applicants declare they can teach anything, but with 15 people all saying they can teach anything, that won’t be a good guide for refugees! Some refuges want to focus on particular skills, and would like to study with a tutor who really wants to focus on that. So how can we help them make good choices when choosing their tutors? One way is not by overloading them with a bunch of information!!!!

Just follow the resume template, and you will be on the expressway to volunteering with TNKR.

  • 3. State-level ID

Some volunteers ask us why they need to submit a state-level ID.

  • NGO: There’s that term again! TNKR is an official non-profit organization registered with the Seoul City Government. TNKR is not a social club, a hangout joint, a language exchange, or a meetup group. If there is ever a scandal, #metoo, or some other problem arose from the reckless actions of someone in our organization, then TNKR would probably get shut down. Some people have asked if they could submit library cards, gym cards, and other forms of ID. Nope! It needs to be a state-level ID, preferably an ARC for non-Koreans and Korean ID cards for South Koreans, but passports are the second choice.
  • Protection of refugees and volunteers: It gives refugees security when they know that we have the ID of everyone who joins us. We require all refugees to also submit identifying information. We have also had North Korea sympathizers and watchers join our organization with the goal of finding “dirt.” We have even had people try to avoid submitting IDs or insisting they don’t need to give us their real names. That’s not a good volunteer!

4) Sign a Waiver

Some applicants have tried to avoid submitting a signed waiver and applicant even altered one line that he didn’t like. That’s not ethical and will get you barred from TNKR! You can email it (recommended) or sign it at our office. Why do we require a waiver?

  • NGO: There’s that term again! TNKR is an official non-profit organization registered with the Seoul City Government. TNKR is not a social club, a hangout joint, a language exchange, or a meetup group.
  • TNKR culture: We have developed our own culture and need volunteers who agree to abide by our process. We are a serious organization focused on helping North Korean refugees improve their English or tell their stories. Volunteers who consider themselves to be free agents within our organization are like poison to the culture we have developed.
  • Recommended by an evaluator: We have had three researchers study our organization, this is one of the recommendations from the first evaluator back in 2014 that we were given when we let her know we were considering becoming an official organization.

5) Follow up!~!~!

We receive many emails, messages, calls. Some people are serious and really and really want to volunteer, some others are just checking around with different organizations, and some others are just curious. If you want to get our attention, then start the application process!

  • Janice Kim: She is TNKR’s volunteer Academic Coordinator. Some months we receive as many as 50 applicants. Yes, she manages the entire process as a volunteer. She checks every detail, personally messages every applicant, and will often call applicants in advance.

So do you still want to be a TNKR volunteer?

If yes, then get the application process started! Some people are able to get this done within an hour. Some others take several days to figure out the process.

Some applicants unlikely to fit in with TNKR show up ready to lecture us about how we should change our application and process, without understanding that we have very specific reasons for our process.

And some struggle and give up, angry.

It doesn’t have to be that way, if you follow the steps above!

If our process is not acceptable for you, then I strongly recommend that you find a different organization that you can lecture to, I’m sure that many are waiting for such a person to join them.

For everyone else ready to follow our process, wants to help us continue our particular approach, and will respect the way we operate, then please, join TNKR!

You can have a lovely time and meet great people!

Fundraiser

A final note, and this one isn’t required: Each volunteer who makes an effort to fundraise for the organization can make a big difference.

Setting the standard: We have now had almost 200 fundraisers set up by volunteers. Other organizations are amazed that our volunteers give their time as well as try to raise a dime for TNKR! Other organizations have reached out to me, asking me for advice about how they could have a similar campaign with volunteers. When they talk about it, volunteers dismiss them or discuss the ethics of engaging in fundraising.

Inspiring others: One of our fans was so inspired that he vowed to match the donations we receive at our super incredible 2019 Matching Donation Challenge. Because TNKR must move out of its current office by July 2019, we will use this money to acquire a suitable office.

Skin in the game: Some volunteers who fundraise or make donations have a deeper connection to TNKR. They don’t want the money they raised to go to waste and after informing relatives about us, they are more proud than when they remain anonymous. So join us, help us continue building a quality organization offering education opportunities for North Korean refugees!

Regards,

Casey Lartigue

TNKR co-founder and International Director

One of the most heart-warming moments in TNKR is when we welcome new refugees. We start with the Individual Education Plan (IEP). The main point: We want them to be thinking about taking charge of how they study. TNKR is a self-directed education project, so the refugees need to be active participants, not just waiting for tutors to do everything.

The result is that refugees are more engaged and the tutors are more inspired. Some of the tutors are a bit nervous in the beginning, especially when they realize that we aren’t just another institute or school handing them a textbook that everyone complains about (but expects to be assigned).

Most of the students are at the A-B-C (or D-E-F) level of English. Of course, some are advanced or intermediate, but that is not the typical case.

From the end of December until today, TNKR co-founders Casey Lartigue and Eunkoo Lee have interviewed 13 refugees who are eager to enter our program. The refugees had two main questions:

“Why didn’t anyone tell me about this sooner” and

“When can I start?”

A few of the refugees we just interviewed had heard about us, but didn’t consider joining until they saw a refugee friend studying in TNKR advance in English. They had escaped to South Korea at the same time and studied together at a refugee school. One refugee studied in other programs and schools while her friend joined TNKR. Her friend has advanced quickly. When she saw that, she decided to apply to join TNKR.

Of course, I’m sure if we check with her friend that she will feel that she has not advanced.

Whatever is the level of the students, we do our best to get them prepared for studying 1:1 with tutors. Many people don’t think it is special that we don’t recruit students, but when we talk to directors or managers of other organizations, they are amazed. One recent visitor who has been involved in different civil society activities couldn’t believe it. His organization has money, influential members, but they struggled finding people who would have benefitted from their activities.

There are some other great stories from the recent interviews, some of which I will share in a future blog post at the Korea Times.

We are recruiting tutors now, check our upcoming events. http://teachnorthkoreanrefugees.org/event/

Refugee testimonials

Whatever the level, it makes us feel we have taken the right approach.

TNKR wrapped up 2018 with several planning meetings getting ready for 2019.

Track 1: TNKR co-founders Casey Lartigue and Eunkoo Lee met with Academic Coordinator Janice Kim to consider upgrades and changes to the way we run that project. I am even in favor of changing the name.

Track 2: I have had a few meetings with Jennifer Bowman as she studies how we run things and she takes on a larger role.

Volunteer Leadership Academy: I have met with Karleta Peterson a few times to discuss how we should handle this project during 2019. I announced this initiative last year, hoping and waiting for someone to take it over.

Bring My Father Home Campaign: We had a planning meeting with Karleta, Jennifer, Youngmin Kwon (Project Manager of the Campaign) and Hwang In-Cheol to discuss this campaign. This is the fifth anniversary of the airplane hijacking, we hope to get more attention for Mr. Hwang’s campaign this year.

Eunkoo and Anna Tsoi met to discuss one of the external projects that TNKR facilitates.

We will be holding several orientation sessions to start the new year, check out our event listings.